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Mississippi’s capital city closer to resolving water service after winter storm

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Running water has been restored to most parts of Mississippi’s capital city, three weeks after the majority of Jackson homes and businesses lost service during a winter storm that coated parts of the South in snow and ice.

Jackson has a population of about 160,000. The entire city remained under a boil-water notice Monday as crews continued working to restore full pressure to the system. Some neighborhoods in south Jackson that are at higher elevations still had low water pressure Sunday, the city said in a statement.

The winter storm froze parts of Jackson’s water treatment facilities. Bursting water pipes are a common problem in the city with aging infrastructure, but this winter system caused an unusually large number of breaks.

“Today our teams also successfully got the list of water main breaks/leaks back within the range of what the city anticipates on a regular basis,” the city statement said Sunday.

Drinking water and water for flushing were still being distributed to people in need. Some schools reopened Monday after being closed because of water problems.

City officials said the goal is to reach pressure of 90 pounds per square inch; it had reached 89 by midday Sunday and was staying there. The city said there was a “minor mechanical issue” with screens where water is brought from a reservoir to one of the two water treatment plans. Contractors were working on that Sunday, and the city said that problem could be solved soon.

The city said if water pressure remains consistent and there are no further mechanical problems, “we should be in a good place this week to begin sampling to remove boil water notices.”

Jackson’s tax base began declining decades ago after the integration of public schools in 1970. The city was 60 percent white then. The Census Bureau shows that Jackson is now about 82 percent Black, and about 25 percent of residents live in poverty.

Jackson voters in 2014 approved an extra 1 percent sales tax for infrastructure repairs, but it generates less than $15 million a year.
Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city needs nearly $2 billion to modernize its water system. He sent a letter to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves last week asking for help in getting $47 million in state or federal money for repairs that Lumumba said are urgently needed.

Jackson also has had problems for years with its water billing system and with the quality of water. Reeves was asked at a news conference last week about the Jackson City Council seeking permission for a new election to add another 1 percent local sales tax for infrastructure.

“I do think it’s really important that the city of Jackson start collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money,” Reeves said.